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Review of GSM-handset Samsung SGH-E390
Today launching cheaper counterparts of prime models has become a tradition. If you come to think of it, why would the company take the pain of creating something all-round new if it can offer a resembling device sporting cut functionality at lower price. Samsung has picked this way, releasing the SGH-E390 in addition to the two look-a-like sliders the SGH-D840 and the SGH-D900. The new handset’s looks is much akin to its more expensive predecessors, but in terms of software, it is less sophisticated, which results in an expected price about 100 USDlower.
The phone casing is remarkable for its austere lines, reminiscent of of the SGH-D900. It lacks smooth lines and needless trinkets – no-nonsense shapes and sharp curves are the E390’s credo.
While a bit thicker than its senior D-counterparts, the E90 has more of a minimalist design in it. It measures up at 94x47x16 mm and weighs in at 80 grams. Almost the whole casing is made of black plastic with silver insets on the fascia. Thanks to matte coating not only does the handset look eye-candy, it is a pleasure to hold as well. Over and above the E390 is a quality thing, which means there are no creaking noises, all details are so well-attuned to each other, that it proves to be quite challenging to take back panel off in spite of the fact that no other lockers are used for the battery cover.
On the left spine you can find a plastic flap covered socket which serves for plugging in USB data cable, charger or wired headset. The volume rocker key is right beneath. The right plate houses microSD memory expansion slot on top of a skinny dedicated camera button. Both top and bottom ends are left completely bald.
The front panel is traditionally occupied by large display covered with a layer of matte plastic. Functional and navigational keys are also placed here. Numeric buttons are on the sliding part of the device.
The quality display embedded in Samsung SGH-E390 enjoys TFT technology at a resolution of 176x220 pixels (33x40 mm) and shows up to 65000 colors. The viewing angles are a bit on the small side, however it wasn’t much of a hassle to interact with the handset. In the sun the screen does pretty well and gets washed out to a minor extent, but the information remains readable. While dialing a number (at the smallest font settings) the display accommodates 5 text and 2 service lines and when looking at the menu there will be 6 list items, section’s title, current time line and service buttons; as regards messages, if you have selected the small font size, then the screen will present you with up to 7 text and 3 service lines.
Using only one hand you can easily zip the phone open, luckily there is spring-loaded slide mechanism. To avoid fingerprints on the screen when opening it up, there is a special ridge beneath it, which you can use as a thumb rest. In passing, it comes in handy only for snapping the phone open/closed, while for the rest of your quality time it will be more of a hassle, making the upper part of the navi-pad hard to reach.
The keypad leaves two-fold impression. On the one hand, the keys themselves are rather bulky and typing with them is quite comfortable, only on a rare occasion will you press wrong buttons. But on the other hand, the plastic rim around the keypad the keys, especially the bottom row, might feel not so good on your fingertips.
The keypad is evenly lit in bright white. Backlighting is well-visible in different conditions.
Samsung SGH-E390 makes use of a 800 mAh Li-Ion battery. In conditions of Moscow networks on average load (one hour of gaming, one hour for other functions, recording of two-minute long video clips and five snaps) the handset lasted less than 2 days and eventually asked us to give it some more power by recharging it. It takes the E390 about 2 hours to charge up from empty to full.
The main menu features 9 items and can be displayed either in the grid mode (3x3) or in the list form. If the latter is the case, then once you have selected the relevant line, the right part of the screen will get filled up with “sub-menu” – a scaled-down list of the section’s contents. Moving into it is possible by pressing the navigational key rightwards, and to view it full-screen, just press OK.
Another handy addition to the menu layout – the handset memorizes which function was called up last time and when you re-enter the menu automatically highlights it, this goes for sub-menu items as well.
Apart from the navigation keys you can turn your sight to shortcut number navigation for browsing through the menu – each menu item has its own number on the list. At that three directions of the navigational key are very user-manageable, the only exception is Up, permanently assigned to My Menu, but in return you are free to customize of the five items present in My Menu.
Phonebook. The phonebook in the E390 can store up to 1000 entries, each with a variety of fields and phone numbers to fill: First Name, Last Name, Mobile phone, Work phone, Home phone, Fax, extra number and e-mail. Every contact can be personalized with an image of a ring tone, as well as added to a group or enhanced with a text note. By the way, custom tunes may be set for groups as well, however if a contact, having a personal ring tone, is in a group, the on an incoming call the latter tune gets higher priority.
It is a good thing to find out that the E390’s phonebook treats the SIM-card memory with some respect: the phonebook features entries from both the handset’s and the SIM’s storages.
When submitting data for a contact on SIM-card, the selection of available fields is much less impressive: Name, Phone number and ID. There are also options for binding up a contact with a custom ring tone, image and group, yet on an attempt to do so the handset notifies you of these features being enabled only for data stored in the handset’s memory and suggests moving the entry over there.
For improved experience of trading your contacts back and forth, the handset allows a namecard with six phone numbers, e-mail and a text note – after filling in all the fields you need, this card can be sent as SMS, MMS or via Bluetooth to other devices.
Speed dial feature with up to 8 numbers on the list is also onboard, at that different keys may have specific phone numbers of one contact.
Call log. Each lists displays up to 30 phone numbers, there is also a merged list available, where next to each contact name (or phone number) is a call type icon (on the left) and amount of calls made (on the right). To switch between the lists (Missed Calls, Incoming, Outgoing) you can make use of the navigational key. Detailed view for each entry reveals date and time of call, caller’s name, if available in the phonebook, otherwise a phone number, however call duration is not recorded here.
Massages. The messaging department of the E390 is quite standard – when attempting to create a new message you are offered three types to pick from: SMS, MMS or e-mail – with each having its own suite of settings. Text messages may have pictures, animations, tunes, namecard from the phonebook or other kind of data taken from the organizer (reminder, memo or task) attached.
The interface layout for MMS is straightforward and easy to master: you can add a text message, tune, image or a video clip, however all this shouldn’t exceed 295 Kb in size. The E390 comes pre-installed with several message templates as well.
As for e-mail settings, there are no difficulties at all. You should only put an address, servers settings (to receive POP3 and IMAP support) and the type of massages downloading. Having done all this things you will fully enjoy working with e-mail in your handset. The only restriction is a size of incoming massage. You may download from server to the phone only 100 Kb file.
For storing messages Samsung SGH-390 has 200 slots for SMS and 3072 Kbytes for MMS.
Also there is a useful function for sending SOS-messages – when activated, should you find yourself in an emergency, after pressing the volume key four times, the message «I am in emergency. Please help me» will be sent to contacts submitted earlier, all incoming calls from these numbers upon sending the emergency message will be picked up automatically. Recipients (not more than 5), as well as number of Repeats may be set up manually, while text of the SOS-message is not manageable.
Y! Ready. A stand-alone item dedicated to search page and mail. It should be mentioned that the service provider varies by region. In Europe this item is used to provide quick access to Yahoo, while in the devices supplied to Russia and CIS countries – to Google. As for e-mail, there are no strict caps in terms of services used, thus you may set up any account you wish. The only thing you should touch up is settings of pop and smtp server (by default these are Yahoo and Google values correspondingly).
Organizer. The phone’s memory is good for storing up to 100 events of each of four types: appointment, anniversary, task, others. For every entry you set start and due dates and times, and location. You are also at liberty to turn on a reminder, adjust the time when it should trigger off and make it repeated (if needed). In tasks you are offered to enter the contents of a task, start and due dates and times, as well as priority (low, normal, high). Calendar may be viewed in monthly or weekly mode.
Memos on the E390 are quite basic, presenting you only with text message and date fields. The phone memory is good for storage pf up to 100 memos.
Opening Alarm Clock section you will find three alarms in there: Morning Alarm, Alarm1 and Alarm2. However they are no different in terms of functionality: you set up alarm time, repeat mode and tune.
The bundled calculator can perform not only the very basic operations but to calculate logarithms, roots, sines, cosines and other functions like that. The way it is implemented is quite nice – it allows for submitting a whole formula with several operations and brackets.
Unit converter, as well as countdown timer as well as stopwatch (saves up to 4 intermediate results) is onboard.
The unsophisticated Voice Recorder allows making .amr clips for sending via MMS and Email and capped at 1 hour. This feature doesn’t work during calls.
World time. Time is shown for all time zones, on top of that for each zone you will have a list of its three biggest cities popping up. The standby mode supports only two time zones, which provide you with time, date, format and week-start day. If you wish, you can save entries for the rest of time zones, but that list will be available only within the application.
MP3-player. The bundled player supports .mp3 and .aac formats and is incapable of working in background mode, thus after launching the application all you have got left to do is close the clam and enjoy your favorite tunes. Standard playback modes are enabled on the E390 – sequential, random playback and shuffle. You are at liberty to create playlists and group the compositions inside them in the way you wish (compositions order can be changed manually). Both equalizer and presets are missing on the handset, but in return it empowers with an ability to send tracks over Bluetooth onto other devices and set them as ring tones.
ImageEditor is a simplest application for photo addition. With the help of it you are free to apply various affects, as well as add frames and objects to a shot.
Java World. The E390 comes included with two games available in demo-mode (Bejeweled and Lemmings) and four fully-functional games (Cannonball, Forgotten Warrior, Freekick and Arch Angel). Much like other Samsung-branded devices, uploading Java via Bluetooth or a data cable in default mode is not supported – to do that you will have to look up in service settings and turn on a corresponding option on, but even with that done, data transfer speed leaves much to be desired.
File Manager. This application categorizes all files by time: music, pictures, video, sounds and other. For storage purposes the E390 possess 15 Mb of built-in memory and add a memory card to this as well. Only list layout is enabled.
Browser. In standard mode the access to build in browser in accomplished separately from Yahoo search page. The browser allows surfing both WAP and ordinary HTML-pages, however this is a cap that should be observed – a page should not be heavier than 500 Kb.
As full size pages are too large for the phone screen you have to use scrolling lines to view them.
Camera. The matrix of the built-in camera sports a resolution of 1.3 Mpix and can output photos up to 1280x1024 pixels big. Although the camera itself is quite poor, it can boast a considerable number of settings. Such settings as shooting mode, snap resolution, quality, the type of expo-sample, white balance and photosensitivity can be customized. Besides that you are free to choose one of the overlays.
Video is recorded in .3gp format with the top resolution making up 176x144 pixels, overlays here are no different from what you will find in still images settings.
Settings. The Phone settings are pretty standard, so I won’t specifically bring them into the limelight and rather note that there you will find “Offline mode”, which is fact quite challenging to reach, but I really doubt that it will be called for very often. The Display settings allow you to set up wallpaper, main menu view (list or grid), skin (black or white), brightness, backlighting time-out, LED color for the external display and screen style in dialing mode (which enables you to pick one of three font sizes, font and background colors).
The Sound settings are nothing special on the E390 as well – ring tone, volume, sound notification for incoming messages and key tone – this is what Sound section is limited to. Any tune you like can be set as a ring tone, whereas incoming messages is where Samsung got a bit greedy – you are restricted to select any sound but one of the default list.
Profiles system is missing on the E390, thus at meetings or other ringing-phone-unfriendly events you will have to stick to the silent mode. The volume outputted by the speakers is just enough to make sure you won’t miss a call even in a crowded and noise-filled place.
Settings offered for Bluetooth are widely spread among other handsets and don’t cry out for an extra note. The A2DP profile for handing wireless headsets is not included.
Browsing the Security section you are bound to stumble upon a handy feature known as Mobile Tracker, which keeps track of whether SIM card has been changed on the device. To use it effectively you will need to set a phone number that will receive messages upon SIM card swapping, containing ID of the newly installed SIM. To enter this item one will have to enter a password, which slightly ups the chances for you to reclaim ownership of a lost or stolen phone.
In terms of reception quality, when tested, the E390 delivered no problems – you clearly hear what people on the other end say even in a noisy room. The hands free feature of the phone also does well.
All in all the handset appeals to me. Its most crucial letdowns, spoiling the experience a bit, are ridge beneath display and a rim around the numberpad. As for the rest, the E390 is typical representative of its class. If you do not want to overpay 100 USD for “useless” features of Samsung SGH-D900 and at the same time would like to own a good-looking, austere phone, this handset will be a worthy choice for you.
The E390 will be rivaled mainly by other Samsung-branded sliders, and also Nokia 6111, if we are to look at other vendors’ proposals. Nevertheless smooth design of the Nokia’s device will win the place for the 6111 in women’s pockets, while men are more likely to find themselves at a loss which one to go for. Sliders by Pantch and Voxtel can be also considered as rivals in some way, if not in the top echelon of manufacturers – for the same money they give slightly better quality (2 mgpx camera for example).
Published 21 February 2007
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